Pruett, Rojas extend Daytona Prototype points lead with VIR win
Scott Pruett survived a pair of late-race restarts and a strong challenge by Burt Frisselle to win Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 before a record crowd at Virginia International Raceway. The victory gave the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley started by Memo Rojas its third consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
Andy Lally, making his 100th career start, had contact with Bill Auberlen with two laps remaining but held on to win in GT, driving TRG's No. 66 AXA Porsche GT3 started by Ted Ballou.
Pruett and Rojas led all but nine of the 84 laps in the two-hour, 45-minute event. Entering the final half hour, though, Pruett brushed a GT car and half of his rear spoiler began flapping. It finally broke off on lap 73, bringing out the second caution of the event. Several Daytona Prototypes tangled on the lap 77 restart, including the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley of Alex Gurney, the No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Cayenne of Joao Barbosa and the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote of Antonio Garcia, bringing out the final caution.
Action resumed for a five-lap dash to the checkered flag, with Pruett holding off Frisselle by 0.293sec. Frisselle matched his career-best finish, sharing the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley with Mark Wilkins.
"It was sideways everywhere, because we lost a lot of downforce," said Pruett after scoring his 26th career victory – 25 of them in a Ganassi Daytona Prototype. "The only advantage was straight-line speed, so I knew if I could get off the turns well, I'd be very difficult to pass, because the straightaways are the best place to pass here."
Rojas started from the pole and led the opening 22 circuits before pitting under the green flag near the 45-minute mark, turning the car over to Pruett.
"The balance of the car changed from qualifying to the race and the car became pretty loose," Rojas said. "It made it more difficult to drive, but it was still fast. In the end, that's all that matters."
It was Wilkins' best finish since 2008, when he and Brian Frisselle won two races. Burt Frisselle – Brian's older brother – had two podium finishes in 2004, including a second at Watkins Glen International.
"Scott obviously had a winning car," Burt Frisselle said. "There were places on the track where you could definitely make up time on him, but he really pushed hard. He did a heck of a job."
Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor finished third in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara. It marked Taylor's first career podium finish.
Darren Law and David Donohue finished fourth in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley, followed by Jon Fogarty and Gurney. Ryan Dalziel teamed with Mike Forest to finish sixth in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW Riley.
After four races, Pruett and Rojas hold a 21-point lead over Dalziel in the Daytona Prototype standings (137-116).
Lally made his move on a call by TRG team owner Kevin Buckler to stay out with the No. 66 AXA Porsche GT3 after the second caution flag waved, moving from seventh position to take second. He took the lead shortly after the restart and led the final 25 circuits. It was Lally's 21st career victory and first for Ballou.
Bill Auberlen, who took over from Paul Dalla Lana in the No. 94 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 at the 45-minute mark, pressured Lally down the stretch. The two ran side by side with two laps remaining before making contact. Auberlen spun through the grass, and recovered to finish eighth.
Lally then held off Jeff Segal by 0.712 seconds, ending the two-race winning streak of Segal and Emil Assentato in the SpeedSource No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8.
"Kevin made a great call," Lally said. "We stayed out under the second to get the wave by, then the pit crew had a lightning stop that got us out in front of the pace car. Bill was coming up on us a second a lap. We raced as clean as we could. I just held my ground – I wasn't going to give more than an inch. To celebrate my 100th race with a win was monumental."
Segal's crew made a similar call after the team had been struggling throughout the weekend and running 10th.
Paul Edwards and Scott Russell finished third in the No. 07 Airjax.com Corvette after running in or near the top three throughout the race. It was the first podium finish for Russell, a world superbike champion and five-time winner of America's leading motorcycle race – the Daytona 200 By Honda – before moving to four-wheeled competition.
The two cars to beat in GT were the No. 30 IDEMITSU/3Dimensional.com Mazda RX-8 of Jordan Taylor and Todd Lamb, and the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 of Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay. Taylor won the pole and led the opening 21 circuits, with Lamb talking over and leading 29 laps. Both teams opted to return to their starting drivers on their second pit stop, but Taylor and Bomarito were caught back in the pack and were unable to get back into contention. They finished sixth and ninth, respectively.
John Potter and Craig Stanton finished fourth in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3, followed by James Gue and Leh Keen in the No. 41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8.
The second-place finish, on the heels of victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park, gives Segal and Assentato a three-point lead in the GT championship (118-115), with seventh-place finishers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro another three points back.
The next Rolex Series race will be on Monday, May 31, at Lime Rock Park. It will be the first appearance by the Daytona Prototypes at the scenic Lakeville, Conn., circuit. Several teams will compete in a test at the track on Tuesday, April 27.